TOKYO A tight semiconductor market has encouraged Matsushita and Hitachi to quickly expand their system-on-chip (SoC) production capabilities with new fabrication facilities in Japan.
Matsushita Electronic Corp., the semiconductor arm of Matsushita, will build a factory for SoC chips that target digital consumer electronics. And Hitachi Ltd. will expand its SoC operation with a new fab devoted to devices featuring the H8 series of microcontroller as embedded cores.
"Matsushita has set systems," or final products such as TV sets and DVD players, said Susumu Koike, president of Matsushita Electronic. "Thus our semiconductors are application oriented. To realize high-performance system-on-chip LSIs that will give differentiating performance to set products, a 0.13-micron process is mandatory. As a matter of course, we studied the possibility of a 12-inch wafer line, but it does not meet our immediate needs."
The new fab, therefore, will use a 0.13-micron process and have a monthly capacity of 5,000 eight-inch wafers.
Matsushita will invest about $840 million in the first-phase fab with its 12,000-square-meter clean room. It will be built at the site of the company's Niigata fab, where the company currently produces bipolar ICs and charge-coupled devices.
Construction of the new Matsushita facility began earlier this month. Production is scheduled to begin in December 2001.
"It's the first phase," said a Matsushita Electronic spokesman, adding that the company "will continue to make a 100 billion yen-level [about $1 billion] investment every year" and that "further expansion with a deeper process is quite possible."
Matsushita has been positioning DVD products, digital TV sets, mobile phones and intelligent transport systems as its four mainstays. The new fab will produce SoC devices for these product categories. Matsushita plans to spend $1.2 billion this fiscal year on new fab construction.
Hitachi, for its part, will build a fab next to its Kofu works in the Yamanashi Prefecture, alongside a facility that was erected in 1997. The new fab, which will use a 0.35-micron process, will be a three-story building with a clean room on each floor.
Hitachi's H8 series of 8-bit and 16-bit controllers is widely used in GSM cellular phones, and the parts are currently in tight supply, a Hitachi spokesman said.
Hitachi will also utilize existing lines adjacent to the new fab to beef up its output. The first-phase line will use only one-sixth of the new fab's clean room space, or 3,000 square meters, to fabricate 3,000 eight-inch wafer per month. Hitachi will invest about $95 million to construct the building and install equipment for the first-phase line. Construction is to begin in July and production is slated to start in January.